Sullivan's farewell thoughts on Rangers

December 22nd, 2020

Some final thoughts after 32 years …

The Rangers, after finishing with the worst record in the American League, could contend for and even win the AL West division title next season.

Think that’s crazy? Longtime Rangers fans know better. They know it is quite possible. It’s part of the Rangers' history.

Think back to 1973-74. They lost 105 games in ’73 and went 84-76 the next season, finishing second to the world champion Athletics. How about 1985-86? They went from 62-99 to 87-75 and second place again. In 2003, they finished in last place for the fourth year in a row and won 89 games the next season. The Rangers were 67-95 in 2014 and division championships the next season.

Billy Martin. Bobby Valentine. Buck Showalter. Jeff Banister. They were all named Manager of the Year for their thrilling, memorable turnaround seasons. All special managers who led some of the most iconic teams in Rangers history.

So … could the Rangers do it again in 2021? Sure, why not. Would that be a good thing? Maybe.

Or maybe not.

As great as the turnaround seasons were in the past, a couple of things are also true. They created great excitement, but also great and unrealistic expectations. In all cases, the Rangers were in a rebuilding mode and the job didn’t get finished. The Rangers tried to win before they were truly ready and when it didn’t happen, the backlash was fierce and unreasonable.

The Rangers can’t afford that again. They can’t afford the “one player away” mentality that has set them back in the past. The Rangers have enough talent to get the job started and the right management team to see this through with Chris Woodward in charge.

They just need enough patience to complete the job thoroughly. Shortcuts just do not work.

Pitching, pitching, pitching
The No. 1 reason to be excited about the Rangers is the young pitching in the farm system. It’s there. The Rangers are loaded with more young pitching talent than they have since maybe the mid-2000s when they had Thomas Diamond, Edinson Vólquez and John Danks.

Two problems.

First, a lot of the talent has been through Tommy John surgery. Secondly, the 2020 Minor League shutdown slowed down everybody, whether they pitched in the big leagues, the alternate training site or their backyard.

Kyle Cody, Taylor Hearn, Cole Winn. Hans Crouse, Joe Palumbo, Brock Burke, Dane Dunning, Alex Speas … and more where that came from. In 2-3 years, pitching could be a huge strength.

Just don’t rush them before they are ready.

Been there, done that, doesn’t work.

Final thoughts
• I'm not sure of the next time I will be at the ballpark, but I guarantee you one thing. I will be there when Ron Washington is inducted into the Rangers Hall of Fame. He is a great manager. End of discussion. I get all the other stuff. No excuses there. But hiring Washington was the best move Jon Daniels ever made.

• The most surprising thing I learned in 32 years covering baseball is how many signs are missed by players during a game. Far more than you realize.

• No. 2 on the list is how often pitchers try to change their repertoire of pitches. Every spring, just about every pitcher is tinkering with a new pitch. It’s also amazing how many of them get away from what actually works for them.

• The two most underappreciated Rangers in club history are C.J. Wilson and Rick Helling. Also, I don’t think Will Clark gets enough credit for what he did for this franchise.

• All-time favorite? No way can I name one. There were far too many great players to deal with on a professional and personal level. Far too many. But will say this …

This is a tough time for Elvis Andrus, and Rangers fans should not just write him off. The guy has meant too much for the franchise, both on and off the field. Too many Rangers icons have had a less-than-graceful exit from the Arlington stage. Far too many. I hope that doesn’t happen to Andrus.

• Chris Woodward is the Rangers' manager. “Woody” is a woodpecker, toy cowboy and a Boston bartender. No doubt it’s just me, but I never thought Major League managers should be called “Wash,” “Banny” or “Woody.” That always bothered me.

• I'm extremely proud of my media colleagues for keeping the Do It For Durrett Foundation going strong year after year. So many players continue to be helpful, including Derek Holland, Nelson Cruz, Chris Davis and others.

• Three crown jewels the Rangers should be proud of: their Spring Training complex in Surprise, their MLB Youth Academy in Dallas and the new academy in the Dominican. You don’t get any better than those three.

• Analytics are great. But Jim “Catfish” Hunter is still one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history and I will not listen to any counterarguments.

• Just remember, there are catchers in the Hall of Fame that weren’t as good as Jim Sundberg. Just saying.

• Yes, I figured the Rangers would have won a World Series by now. But I also didn’t expect the last time the University of San Francisco won an NCAA Tournament game to be when I was a sophomore in 1979. Oh well.

• My all-time favorite moment covering the Rangers?

The morning of April 1, 1994, when I walked down the runway, into the home dugout and stepped out onto the playing field for the first time at the Ballpark in Arlington. A golden morning haze hung in the air amid the sunshine and the splendor of that beautiful ballpark.

I will never forget that moment as long as I live.

That’s it. That’s the best that I can do.